Friday 27 May 2011 Leeds Castle – overcast, cool
Because we are going on a big adventure tomorrow, we picked up our hire car this morning. It is a Ford SMax 7 Seater – similar to the Ford Galaxy, with lots of room for Ella’s baby capsule and two adults in the back and loads of room in the boot for Ella’s pram etc.
Janet took Ella to school to visit the staff and also her tutor group students, so the two of us headed off to Leeds Castle in Kent, about an hour and a half drive from Maidenhead.
Leeds Castle has been the private property of six of England’s medieval queens and was the home of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. The first part of the castle was built by a Norman baron during the reign of William the Conqueror’s son, Henry I.
The two of us thoroughly enjoyed exploring Leeds Castle. When we arrived, we were greeted by a peacock displaying its tail plume to a nearby hen, who was ignoring him.
We walked down to the castle beside the moat and entered the castle via the cellars. We were impressed with the way each room has been preserved with furnishings and we were able to walk from room to room taking photos (unusual in a lot of these places).
After lunch at the Fairfax Hall Restaurant, we walked through the Culpeper Garden and the Lady Baillie Garden to the Aviary, where they had various types of birds including a Toucan, Kookaburra and Galahs. In a field not far from the Aviary, we watched the World of Wings Show, which featured three Parrots, a Merlin Falcon, a Blue and Gold Macaw and four White Storks from Africa. All these birds were untethered and were flying freely around “putting on their show” for the audience.
We had a leisurely walk back through the Wood Gardens, where we saw an albino peacock and various ducks and geese, and after an enjoyable day of exploring Leeds Castle, it was time to head for our second home. Although we were only an hour and a half from Maidenhead, it took us two and a half hours to get home as the M25 Motorway had turned into an 8 lane parking lot for some time because there had been accidents in both directions.
Saturday 28 May – Weekend in Wales – overcast, cool and showery
At 8.00am, after packing the car with Ella’s pram, two overnight bags, and various other baby essentials, we headed off, in light rain, down the M4 towards Wales. By 11.00am we had driven through Cardiff and Cowbridge and were on the South Coast of Wales. We stopped at 11.00am at Porthcawl, a lovely seaside village, to feed Ella in a little café. From there, we drove to the Gower Peninsula and stopped at Oxwich Bay for lunch. It was quite windy and Ella didn’t like the wind (neither did we), so we sat in the car and ate our lunch while Janet fed Ella and we enjoyed the view across to Three Cliff Bay. We enjoyed a walk at Rhossili – Janet and Adrian put Ella in her pram, which they covered with her clear plastic rain cover to keep out the wind and she promptly fell asleep. We walked down the cliff-top path towards Worms Head – the craggy cliffs were spectacular – lots of photos were taken and even although we nearly got blown away in the wind, it was well worth it!
We continued on to Tenby, where we had booked into Heywood Mount Hotel for the night. After checking in and depositing all our gear, we drove into the town, parked the car and went for a walk along the Esplanade, which was set high above the beach. From there we could see Caldey Island which still houses a monastery and a working lighthouse. Off the point at the end of the beach was a small rocky island with the old Castle ruins – apparently at low tide, you can still walk out to the island. After taking lots of photos and enjoying the beautiful scenery, we walked through the streets and down to the old harbour. The various small boats and the pastel coloured buildings surrounding the harbour made it look as though it had come straight from a postcard. The town is surrounded by an old stone wall which was built in 13th Century and some of it still exists.
We had a delicious three course meal in the restaurant at the hotel before retiring for the night.
Sunday 29 May – overcast, cool
After a lovely breakfast we drove to St Govan’s Head in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, with its varied landscapes of rugged cliffs and sandy beaches. To get there, we drove through Pembroke, where there was an old castle in the centre of the town and then out into the country along narrow laneways only wide enough to fit one car at a time. The cliffs were very picturesque and reminded us of the west coast of Ireland – the Cliffs of Moher. Our next stop was Milford Haven, which is the biggest port in Wales and one of the largest oil and gas ports in Northern Europe.
We drove through some beautiful countryside with green paddocks that looked like a patchwork quilt – our photos will not do the area justice because it was overcast and misty. As we came down a hill and around a corner, there in front of us was a beautiful surf beach, Newgale Beach. It is, apparently, one of the best beaches in Wales – there were several people kite-surfing. The beach is about 3 kilometres long and is backed with a huge pile of loose rocks next to the road – we can assume this was to keep the ocean from flooding the road or entering the caravan and camping area beyond.
We drove through Solva, a pretty little village with a long, thin harbour nestled in a valley – the tide was out when we drove past and the boats were all high and dry!!
From there we drove to St David’s, which is on the south west coast of Wales and is classified as a city because of its cathedral. We parked the car, had lunch in a quaint little café and then went for a walk through St David’s to the Cathedral – we walked through the ancient gatehouse and down the hill to the impressive and large Cathedral, which is a grey granite building built in the 12th century. We were able to take photos inside the cathedral, which was unusual (we just needed to make a donation, which was a brilliant idea, rather than to not allow photos and try to sell postcards to the visitors).
We headed out to St Non’s Bay through many narrow roads and found ourselves at St Justinians, where we could see out across Ramsey Sound to Ramsey Island.
After a lovely 2 days exploring the south west coast of Wales, we decided not to stay overnight because Ella still wasn’t feeling 100% and so we headed back on the M4 to Maidenhead, stopping at a services along the way for coffee, tea, mocha, strawberry frappucino and a feed for Ella too!!
We have thoroughly enjoyed our short visit to Wales, exploring the diverse, picturesque countryside and seaside villages.
We found another very handy feature of the hire car was that the middle seat in the back was able to fold down, thus turning it into a change table and so the person doing the changing of Ella’s nappy didn’t have to go out in the cold or rain!!
We forget how small the UK really is until we asked the GPS to plot our trip home from St Davids, the most westerly point of Wales, to Maidenhead and it told us it was only going to take just over 4 hours.
Monday 30 May – Maidenhead – cool, raining (one of the few rainy days that we have experienced since we have been here!)
Today was spent relaxing, catching up on cuddles with Ella, sorting photos and doing our blog. Aunty Katharine will be delighted to discover that some time this afternoon was spent taking some “Anne Geddes photos” of Ella. See our gallery and Janet and Adrian’s blog tomorrow for photos, thesuttons.name